A post on the St. Louis SLAM’s official Facebook page this week perfectly encapsulates the women’s professional tackle football team’s positive mindset after being handed a 10-point loss last weekend.
“A setback is a setup for a comeback. New week! New focus!” the post read.
The SLAM travels to the Gopher State Saturday and meets the Minnesota Machine at Osseo Senior High School. Kickoff is at 7 pm.
St. Louis (2-1) was handed its first defeat of the season last Saturday in a 27-17 donnybrook against the Kansas City Titans. The topsy-turvy battle in the Great Plains Division of the Women’s Football Association (WFA) wasn’t decided until late and dropped the locals to 1-1 in the Division.
“We suffered a disappointing loss, but what drives me the most was our response as a team to that loss,” said SLAM quarterback Jelani Kelly of last weekend’s cross-state road trip. “We picked each other up and started this week with the drive and determination to get better. No one likes to lose, so we are picking up where we left off and are working harder and smarter.”
It’s been this perpetual process of weekly refocusing that has been imperative in every game this season for the SLAM. Back in the WFA fold after a one year absence, all three games thus far has presented the team with new challenges. This Saturday’s game is the mid-point of the squad’s regular season campaign.
When Kelly looks at the progression of her team through three Saturdays of competitive game play, the gunslinger likes what she sees. A cohesive unit is building and growing, gaining traction both on the field and off.
“I think my assessment is one that is more of team dynamic than physically,” she said. “I think, physically speaking, we are loaded on all positions on the field. Our returnees have been awesome, as expected, and our first year players continue to amaze me.”
But the interpersonal relationships cultivated within the SLAM players supersede the outcomes on the scoreboard.
“What amazes me the most, though, is the resilience and bond of everyone on the team,” she continued. “Whether through adversity or good times, we encourage, push, challenge, and lift each other up.”
The push to succeed has resulted in strong starts across the board. Kelly scored on a quarterback keeper in the Kansas City tilt, her third rushing touchdown of the season. She also has six touchdown passes through three games.
Running back Taylor Hay has four touchdown runs and 12 successful PAT kicks. A trio of SLAM receivers have each snagged a pair of TD catches.
The stubborn SLAM defense has also been instrumental in the 2-1 start, which has held the opposition to an average 17 points through three contests.
Early statistics like these shows the signs of the team’s upward trajectory, but Kelly maintains that the SLAM week-by-week goal this season is to go beyond the numerical and instead focus on the alphabetic. A team “W” is the prize that is eyed with every turf battle.
“In simple terms, progression is great,” said Kelly. “But at the end of the day, no one on the field is playing to stack stats, but instead, for our sister next to us, to win as a unit, and for the love of the sport.”
St. Louis topped the Machine, 27-18, at its home and seasonal opener April 11. Kelly connected with receivers Kaylee Neutzling and Vicki Nichols in the nine-point, hard-fought victory.
“I think what stuck out to me was the level of play that Minnesota brought to the game,” reflected the SLAM quarterback. “They are an awesome team and they displayed that in the first game. We were able to work as a unit and come out with the win.”
They look for similar results on the road this Saturday against a team that is searching for its first victory.
The Machine (0-4) has had rough results since its season-launching meeting with the SLAM. Minnesota fell to West Michigan (35-13), Chicago (70-0) and Indianapolis (32-6), resulting in its current WFA record.
Home field advantage against a St. Louis team that they played tightly last month might be enough of a propeller to give the hostesses an incentive.
For the SLAM, a stronger effort than what was displayed against the squad in WFA Week One might be needed in order for St. Louis to notch its third victory.
“A win is going to be very important for us this week,” Kelly said of Saturday’s Great Plains Division rematch. “Staying focused and cheering each other on is going to be more important now than in week one. If we execute and continue to work as a unit, we will be in good shape.”
Saturday’s contest will conclude the SLAM’s three-game road run. They play a home contest against Derby City on May 16 at Lindenwood College.
For more information on the St. Louis SLAM, go to stlslam.com.